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NCAA tournament team previews: North Carolina Central Eagles

Jeremy Ingram, N.C. CentralJeremy Ingram is the Eagles' best hope for an upset of Iowa State. (Aaron Doster/Icon SMI)

As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team's national rank. For more teams, click here.

Record: 28-5, 15-1 in MEAC

RPI/SOS: 98/338

Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 107.6 (115th) / 98.9 (60th)

Seed: No. 14 in East

Key player: Jeremy Ingram, senior guard, 20.6 ppg, 1.6 spg, .375 3P%

The Case For: 

The Eagles were one of the few teams to dominate a smaller conference all season and follow through by winning their conference tournament. They were in control of the MEAC from wire-to-wire thanks in large part to a defense that wasn't just one of the most efficient for a small school, but one that ranked better on KenPom than 11 power conference schools in the field of 68. They had a 24-percent turnover rate that ranked fifth in the country, and their 43.4 percent effective field goal percentage allowed was also good for fifth.

If North Carolina Central has any hope of springing an upset on Iowa State, its defense will have to come up with a huge performance. But this team has proved to be tough to handle for power teams. The Eagles beat N.C. State in Raleigh, only lost to Wichita State by 11 in December and were within striking distance of Cincinnati with 10 minutes left in their season-opening loss to the Bearcats.

The Case Against: 

Just one player other than Ingram averages double-figures, and that's junior Jordan Parks at 10.2 points per game. Quite simply, this team has a lot of trouble scoring the basketball. N.C. Central ranks 133rd in effective field goal percentage and is essentially a total non-factor from behind the arc.

While their defense is strong, the Eagles are actually a bit soft on the defensive glass. They allowed opponents to grab 32.8 percent of the available offensive rebounds, which ranked 244th in the country. They lost just five times all year, but two of those were to IUPUI and Florida A&M, teams that had RPIs of worse than 280. Can they honestly hope to rise up and beat an Iowa State team that was one of the best in the Big 12 all year and won the conference's tournament championship?

SI prediction: Lose in second round to Iowa State

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts
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